Kohli attributes batting debacle to rare mental blemish

Kohli attributes batting debacle to rare mental blemish

Virat Kohli has stated his batting unit had floundered mentally as opposed to having their techniques laid bare in the testing conditions at New Zealand, where India went down 0-2 spectacularly. Mayank Agarwal emerged as the side's best batsman - statistically - after four innings with an average of 25.50, an emphatic evidence of the team's struggles. It didn't help that India lost both tosses and were asked to bat first in both Wellington and Christchurch, but the Indian captain suggested that his team may have been guilty of building up the challenges of countering the conditions more than they ought to have.

"I truly believe that we made too much of the conditions from the first day onwards, of the first Test: overcast, a bit of dampness on the pitch - we never spoke of these things before. So yeah, it can creep in every now and then, it's about not letting it grow, not letting it become a norm, something that we as a side have not done at all," Kohli said after the seven-wicket loss in the second Test. "We don't go into conditions and think that we might not be able to execute what we want to. We've always gone in with a very positive outlook and, as I said, your skill follows, how you think.

"If you're not clear in your head then the feet don't move, you're not quite sure whether to play the shot or not, leave the ball or play the ball. I think these sorts of things can creep in, and which have creeped in in this series. It's something we have recognised already. The good thing is that everyone's understood what's happened and is very keen to improve it. It's all mental. I don't see any problem with anyone's game as such. It's mental, and it's something that can happen at this level and we just need to accept it and iron it out and move ahead."

Asked to put a finger on the possible ways of coming out of the rut ahead of India's next World Test Championship assignment - away to Australia in late 2020 - Kohli advocated an approach that fitted inbetween overthinking and outright denial of problem. Speaking from a personal point of view, Kohli, who had an unusually lean series with the bat - average of 9.50 - reiterated his own mindset - of walking out to score runs in Test cricket than thinking about surviving and thinking about the conditions.

"There are two ways to look at it. I would much rather be in the middle and try to correct those things rather than having too much time in between and waiting for a game to arrive so that you can figure out whether you have corrected it or not," Kohli said. "The advantage of playing a lot of cricket is that if you are working on something, you have many games to try and execute it straight up. It's the way you look at it. As I said it needs to be balanced.

"You can't overthink it, you can't be in denial also. Works differently for different people. If you are taking pressure, then all kinds of things can feel wrong whether it is personal skill or playing as a team, but when you are just optimistic about what you want to do... say you walk out to score runs rather than thinking of survival or thinking of conditions too much, then you will bat accordingly. Similarly, as a team, if you are worried about what might happen in a session, whether it will go our way or not, then invariably it does not.

"So I think the outlook as far as I am concerned, and as far as I saw things happening, was not ideal for us in this series. We were not positive enough, we were not brave enough in moments, which we have done in the past. In the crunch moments, we have just gone for it. Even though we have lost, still we are competing. Those are things for me that need to be ironed out. Skills follow your mindset, simple as that. You can bat as well as you want, but as long as you don't think right, then you are not going to be able to do what you want to do. More about ironing those things out mentally and going ahead positively and taking challenges head on."

Kohli also jumped in to defend his middle-order batting comrades, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane. Part of the criticism directed at Pujara and Rahane was their inability to get stuck for long durations without moving the scoreboard, or the match, forward. Thus, when they did get out, sometimes even after scoring a half-century, the team hadn't gotten out of the woods at all.

"Jinks [Ajinkya Rahane] is one of those players who has been very solid for us in Test cricket. I don't look at averages and numbers and those things too much," Kohli said. "It is about impact performances. Has he been able to make enough impact performances for the team? The answer for me is yes. Whenever we have required an important performance from him, more often than not he has delivered. Also have to figure out how many guys in your team do average more than 42-43-44, so if you have a solid middle order, you need to make sure those guys are playing together enough. Few games here and there, if you don't execute those things properly, it doesn't mean you become bad players. So Jinks for us, we are not even thinking about those kind of things. He has been solid for us. He has put his hand up on many occasions when the team has been in trouble so there are no issues there.

"If you take the Australia series, Pujara made the biggest contribution there. It was the first time we won a series there. If you take things in isolation, you will find lots of things to use as excuses, that this didn't happen or something didn't happen because of that. When you play collectively, your aim is to put 300-350 on the board. Whether five people score 50-60 each or one person makes 150, like Pujara did in Australia, our aim to have a big score on the board. If that doesn't happen collectively, you must think about that rather than thinking what individuals have done. No one thinks like that. You play as a team and you want to do well as a team.

"Collectively as a batting unit we did not perform. To single out individuals, I don't believe in that. We take the hit together as a group, whether as a batting group or as a team. And we try to correct those things and move forward."